Cabarrus County scammed out of $2.5 million

Cabarrus County scammed out of $2.5 million

CABARRUS COUNTY, N.C. — Cabarrus County is trying to recover $1.7 million after it was scammed.

The email scam diverted a payment of more than $2.5 million. Some of the money has been recovered but $1.7 million is still missing.

The money was supposed to go toward a West Cabarrus High School construction project.

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In January 2018, the county set up an electronic funds transfer account for Branch and Associates, the general contractor for the project.

In November, the school district got a series of emails from an impostor posing as the contractor.

In one of the emails, the impostor requested the county change the bank account it was sending the money to, which employees did.

The next month, the county's $2.5 million payment to Branch and Associates went to the scammers.

The county learned about the change in early January when it got a call from the actual contractor saying it had missed a payment

"The county was not hacked. It was not a cybersecurity, this is a case of spoofed identity, in which someone posed as a vendor, provided seemingly valid documentation and signed approvals,” County Manager Mike Downs said.

The sheriff's office and FBI are investigating the scam.

The county said construction on the new West Cabarrus High was not impacted.

Some of the money, $776,000, was recovered along with $75,000 from insurance.

The county transferred about $1.7 million from its assigned fund balance, which is meant for extraordinary circumstances.

Cabarrus County is working with a consultant to redesign its vendor processes.

County staff have also gone through several trainings to make sure they can spot a future scam.